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Op/Ed

ListingDoor model and assertions are not only offensive to Realtors, but wildly inaccurate

ListingDoor, built by a veteran Realtor says they save buyers from paying broker’s commissions, which they call a “loss of as much as 40 to 50% of home equity.” What?!

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A statement circulated today by ListingDoor.com proves the old truism that “All real estate is local” and rides the new wave of websites promising to help homeowners sell their homes better, faster, cheaper, all by themselves. They’re calling themselves the “Uber” of real estate. Interesting…

Last June, I wrote here about OpenDoor.com’s $9 million launch that promised an oh-so-similar result (“Sold. The Minute You’re Ready,” the site brags). A quick check today shows a whopping 45 move-in-ready homes listed on their site for sale, all in the Phoenix, Airzona area. I tried entering various zip codes and addresses from across the country, as if I was a homeowner trying to use their service, with no luck. I’m not worried that homeowners in 95 percent of the United States will be trying this any time soon.

“Veteran Realtor” launches startup with recycled model

Today the launch is ListingDoor.com – similar name, similar vision, and even more hyperbole in their promotional materials.

Let’s start with the first sentence of their press release: “In response to the thriving FSBO market, veteran real estate broker and author Sissy Lappin launches ListingDoor.com, providing profitable and powerful marketing tools for homeowners, giving them everything they need to successfully sell their home on their own.” While some parts of the country are experiencing inventory shortages and perhaps FSBO’s have an easier time than in the recent past, this is by no means a nationwide phenomenon. I am not sure where she is seeing a “thriving FSBO market” but it is not everwhere.

Lappin states that “today homeowners are privy to all the same market information as real estate agents, allowing homeowners to efficiently determine the value of their home.” Really, as Zillow has proven? Because the “Zestimate” is never wrong?

The site states that a homeowner plugs in basic data and they will churn out a market report and advise in pricing. AVMs (automated valuation models) are better than they used to be, true. But in many parts of the country, especially rural areas without lots of data points, the valuations are more often skewed (extremely high or low) than they are correct.

Why would a broker say AVMs are superior to CMAs?

I find it interesting that Lappin, a real estate broker, would tout that an online computer modeled valuation would be more accurate than a skilled agent in pricing a home.

Take for example the “best house in the neighborhood.” You have a high-end home that has numerous upgrades and amenities unseen from the street and are not reflected on a tax parcel card. This luxury home sits in a predominantly middle-class neighborhood where homes are of builder-grade, no upgrades, and less square footage. Do you think that this home will be priced more accurately by a computer model or by a in-the-flesh neighborhood expert?

These business models imply agents are just door openers

What all of these sites discount or take for granted is that agents do much more than hand you a CMA and suggest a price. They are more than door openers and open-house-sitters.

A good agent does his/her job well and gets the house sold for the highest price possible in the least amount of time on market (if that is the seller’s goal). A great agent counsels and advises, listens to the seller’s needs and take all of this into account as they guide the seller through the maze of a process.

I take offense to ListingDoor.com’s statements

While I am obviously not a fan of any site that proposes to “cut the middle man” (the agent) out of the transaction as if we hold no value, I take offense to this site’s twisting of statistics and figures to pull at a viewer’s gut.

ListingDoor proposes that a broker’s commission is a “loss of as much as 40 to 50% of home equity.” So a commission is not a “fee” – it is the broker stealing up to half the seller’s home equity. Wow. Talk about sensationalism.

Market online, but not the MLS… what?

In addition to their offering a market analysis (which is actually NOT market analysis, as no human is analyzing the facts and figures and analyzing anything, it is a computer generated crap shoot), the site states that they promote the house online and in social media marketing – but do not use the MLS.

While I agree social media marketing is crucial in selling homes these days, the MLS is still alive and kicking (and the standard source of syndication to all of the real estate portals). You can advertise on social media, but many active homebuyers will contact their own buyer’s agent in order to then make that appointment.

Avoiding the MLS cuts out any buyer’s agents who may not be aware of your home, as well as those who choose not to show FSBO’s as part of their business model (we won’t go into the ethics of this here, as that is another column completely).

“Avoid the pitfalls that come with using a real estate agent,” the site says

To drive the point home one more time, ListingDoor states that they teach you “step-by-step the right way to sell your home and avoid the pitfalls that come with using a real estate agent.”

Wow. What an amazing statement. This site’s entire marketing push seems to be that real estate agents are the enemy to avoid. We steal your home’s equity and somehow make it harder and more dangerous to sell with us than without us.

The bottom line: ListingDoor ignores the agent’s value

Cutting out the “middleman” may work in some markets, for some sellers who have expertise and knowledge in handling negotiations and transactions – but it’s not for everyone. Buying and selling a home may be the biggest financial transaction someone may make. This isn’t filing your 1040EZ form through Turbo Tax.

I personally wouldn’t want to represent a seller who feels I bring no value to the table, and that my knowledge and skills can be replaced by a computer model. The first hurdle in the sale is finding a buyer. After that is when an agent’s true value is realized, as we keep the deal together and delicately negotiated through the weeks and perhaps months required to close a loan these days.

Our value is not just in pricing a home and filling in the blanks in a contract. When the deal threatens to fall apart, that’s when “salespeople” disappear and “experts” emerge.

#ListingDoor

Erica Ramus is the Broker/Owner of Ramus Realty Group in Pottsville, PA. She also teaches real estate licensing courses at Penn State Schuylkill and is extremely active in her community, especially the Rotary Club of Pottsville and the Schuylkill Chamber of Commerce. Her background is writing, marketing and publishing, and she is the founder of Schuylkill Living Magazine, the area's regional publication. She lives near Pottsville with her husband and two teenage sons, and an occasional exchange student passing thru who needs a place to stay.

Op/Ed

If you haven’t yet, it’s time to hunker down with your home gym

(OPINION / EDITORIAL) Big companies are throwing their cash behind the home gym long game. It’s the right idea, if you look at the big picture of the future.

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Woman rolling up yoga mat with dumbells next to it in her home gym setup.

I’ve always been a member of what they call ‘The Late Majority’ when it comes to tech of any kind.

Chart titled Innovation Adoption Lifecycle

That’s where all the sweet deals and knockoffs happen. So by the time I’m ready to try anything, it’s already a worldwide phenomenon. My clearance aisle panther of a mother is even farther along in the curve… So by the time she wants something, that thing has passed from ‘household name’ to institution.

She wants a Peloton. And that should tell us all something.

See, despite the multitudes of hyper-buff plague deniers licking weights and filling out body bags, a not-insignificant number of people are opting to stay in and attempt a fitness regimen with their home gym, and only their own microbes to contend with.

It’s a smart idea. Some people can sweat up a mask and breathe at the same time while still keeping their faith in the ability of others to wipe the expletive-ing bench, but I’m not one of them. And neither are loads of others. Businesses like the aforementioned bike brand, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Apple’s fitness division, and the expensive clothes-shaped tissue paper manufacturers at Lululemon are all doing their sinister boardroom hand-rubbings virtually over the home gym trend that’s here to stay.

Despite the emergence of the vaccine, new mutations coupled with non-existent government aid, throupled with lack of work-from-home ability in less monied communities, yes, the virus itself is going nowhere fast. And as they usually are, the rich are richer for it, BUT what does that mean for smaller businesses that’ve managed to keep afloat all this time? It’s a case of follow the money. I won’t tell anyone that copying a larger business is always the key to success, but in this case, imitation is the best strategy.

If you haven’t already shelved your ‘When everything opens back up’ plans until at least the middle of next year, go on and shelve ‘em. Meanwhile, scoot all of your physical offerings to be mailed (still super slowly, unfortunately), sexify your mass emails, brush up on your product photography skills, take an SEO course, and just make all your stuff look as appealing as possible from a distance, because that’s how it’s going to be for a long… long time.

Keep the sweat on your new personal stair steppers, and hunker down. By the way, if anyone has a disc and mat for Pump it Up on the PS2 to sell me… You know where my DMs are.

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Op/Ed

5 side hustles that could turn into your new career

(EDITORIAL) With COVID throwing all jobs out of whack, maybe now you can explore something new and actually make a career change. Here’s 5 side hustles to try.

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side hustles

When you think of finding a side hustle, you might picture yourself finding an obscure job as a bike courier three nights a week or maybe even walking your neighborhood dogs. Both of these positions can be fun and pay extremely well depending on who you work for.

There are endless opportunities for part-time, enjoyable, profitable side hustles. However, if you take on any of the following side gigs, you could end up with a new career.

1. Day trading

Day trading is the purchase and sale of a stock, bond, or security all within the same day. Many entrepreneurs are drawn to day trading because it’s fast-paced and risky, but with the right skills, day trading presents a potential for serious profit.

If you’re curious about day trading, RJO Futures published a guide on how day trading works. RJO’s article explains that whether you trade from a large firm or on your own, you’ll need three tools:

  • Access to a trade desk. This will give you instant order actions the moment your trades are placed.
  • Analytical software. Analytical software will help you identify key indicators to inform your next move.
  • Access to news outlets. Day trading – specifically day trading futures – is volatile. Prices move by the second and having access to news outlets will give you a heads up if your market might be affected.

Be aware that if you enjoy day trading and get good, you might want to go full-time. It’s possible to turn day trading into a career, but the learning curve is steep.

2. Investing in real estate

Real estate is a lucrative industry, but it’s not for everyone. Popular among entrepreneurs, investing in real estate requires long hours of study, extensive research, and getting your hands dirty.

Usually, real estate investors have side hustles to supplement their income. However, many people get into real estate as a side hustle and end up turning it into a career.

If you want to get started in real estate, don’t jump to investing right away. Take the expert advice from the folks at Bigger Pockets and start by learning about the industry. Get a part-time job as an assistant property manager to pick up industry knowledge and learn your local landlord-tenant laws. If you’re going to invest in real estate to rent out, you’ll be a landlord at least for a short period of time until you hire a property management company.

If you know someone who can help you make your first investment, you don’t need to wait. However, to be successful you have to think outside the box to gain a full spectrum of industry experience.

3. Content writing

Every business needs content writers and many are willing to settle for any level of proficiency. If you have any writing skills, you can easily pick up some content writing gigs on job listing sites.

If you love writing, you might start out writing one blog per week and decide you want to pursue writing full-time. If it’s truly your passion, stick with it and you’ll find the right clients who will pay you generously for your work.

4. Coaching

Whatever people are struggling with, there’s a coach to save the day. Life coaching and business coaching are the most popular, but you can coach people on anything you’re passionate about.

Being a coach isn’t easy. Even people who intentionally start a career as a coach struggle. What most people don’t realize about coaching is that passion does not equal profit. Coaching is a hard sell, but life coaching is especially difficult. Running a coaching business requires more than business skills – you need to be proficient at helping people solve their problems.

If you’re good at helping people solve their problems, there’s a chance you might get addicted to being a coach. There’s nothing more satisfying than helping people grow and transform their lives.

5. Thrifting

It’s not hard to find sellable items at your local thrift stores. However, you need an eye for what people want to buy. If you’ve got that eye, you could end up with a new career.

For example, Natalie Gomez, a former merchandise planner at Macy’s, took on thrifting as a side job and wound up making thousands of dollars. Gomez was interviewing for a new job when she realized she was already making a good living selling clothes.

Enjoy your side hustles

Even if you don’t turn your side gigs into a career, take on gigs you enjoy. Money is necessary, but it’s never worth sacrificing your happiness.

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Op/Ed

Want to move past your burnout? Stop using multiple lists

(EDITORIAL) How my evolving understanding of “burnout” helped me learn an important distinction between being busy and being productive.

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too busy to burnout

When I used to hear the word “burnout” I would picture the freaks from the gone-much-too-soon series, Freaks and Geeks, as they would bum around outside, smoking in between classes. Now when I hear the word “burnout,” I think of myself a few years ago as my brain was being fried by life.

I wasn’t smoking between classes, rather running around like a chicken with its head cut off trying to figure out how to manage all of my tasks at hand. I’d make a to-do list, see everything I had to do, and drown in overwhelm.

I’d spend my days fretting over how busy I was, and nights catching up with friends via phone, talking about how busy I was and how there just wasn’t enough time in the day.

Notice that nowhere in here was I actually doing anything productive. I fell into a vicious hole of being so consumed with how much I had to do, I wasn’t taking the time to do anything but stress.

At first, it made me feel interesting and somewhat important that I had so much going on. I quickly realized that no one cares and it’s not that interesting (I also quickly remembered how much I love to just relax and not have something planned every day of the week).

This is where I learned the of the most important lessons to date – being busy does not equal being productive.

It got to a point where I was running on fumes and eventually had this epiphany that how I was operating was doing nothing to help me. This was in part brought on by seeing someone close to me behave the same way, and I was able to actually look at how defeating it was.

From there, I made it a point to change my tune. Instead of wasting time writing and re-writing to do lists, I challenged myself to make one master to do list and accomplish at least one item upon completion of writing the list. This helped shake off the cobwebs and I was able to feel a bit of weight off of my shoulders.

The ideas surrounding the hustle mentality had me so consumed and all I was doing was hustling my way to nowhere. After feeling the burnout, seeing someone else operate that same way, and seeing that hustle mentality mocked, I was finally able to break free and get stuff done.

And, guess what? I have even more to do now, but feel more calm and collected than ever. I just have to repeat the mantra: Being busy does not equal being productive. Being productive – especially in silence – is so much better and much more rewarding.

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